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Theater Reviews: Hollywood Fringe Festival 

Thursday, Jun 24 2010
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GO  BROWNSVILLE BRED "Written, performed and lived" by Elaine Del Valle. With fashion-model beauty and a smile that can melt iron, Puerto Rican Del Valle tells a mostly affectionate tale of living in and breaking out of the Brooklyn housing projects where she grew up. She mocks her own smile when, in trouble, she grins maniacally. She tells a generic saga of triumph over impediments of family trauma, drug addiction, illness and would-be rapists, with her infectious charm that washes away the shortcomings of the script. She has a squeaky voice that can also become tinged with a growl, hinting at the ferocity mingled with the sweetness of her portrayal. We're made up of mostly water, she says, and the liquid looks so clean. Like us, however, it's not necessarily as it appears. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; June 23, 6 p.m.; June 26 2:15p.m.; June 27, noon. (323) 856-8611 (Steven Leigh Morris/L.A. Weekly)

GO  BURTON In his 75-minute solo drama, Welsh actor Rhodri Miles delivers a brilliant and gripping full-length portrait of fellow Welshman, actor and movie star Richard Burton. Script-writer Gwynne Edwards, director Hugh Thomas and Miles meld their talents in a bitter and funny warts-and-all biography that traces Burton's life from cradle almost to grave, with pithy accounts of his love affairs with Claire Bloom and Susan Strasberg, his tempestuous marriages to Elizabeth Taylor, and his love-hate relationship with acting (he preferred playing rugby). Miles meticulously captures Burton's savage wit, his love of language and his guilt-ridden, self-destructive alcoholism. Various venues. hollywoodfringe.com/project/view/26. (Neal Weaver/L.A. Weekly)

GO  BYE-BYE, BOMBAY The allegory of a raindrop seeking a puddle to land in anchors what starts as a marionette show in Bye-Bye, Bombay, Cara Yeates’ solo show about defying her Indo-Canadian mother by visiting, and reliving, her mom’s Bollywood experiences in Bombay. Ably supported by Cameron Avery’s video design and Sylvan Sailly’s animation, the saga tells of a surreal descent into a world of incomprehensible poverty, cruelty and transcendent mysticism. A capable performance about forging an identity. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; through June 26. ­hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/191 (Steven Leigh Morris/L.A. Weekly)

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CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? The DMV waiting room provides the comic fodder for playwright Phoebe Neidhardt's workmanlike series of character portraits of the denizens and customers at the government office where the author has gone to get a new license photo. The problem is that the real wackos waiting in line at the DMV are inevitably more interesting and engaging than these generic denizens of the government office. Neidhardt depicts the prissy gay DMV license photographer, a hard-boiled female casting agent (with a yeast infection), a child's nanny (who inexplicably talks like Holly Hunter) and a cheerful Latino desk clerk. While the actress is commendably versatile, the characterizations lack the context and dramatic heft to emerge as anything more than the briefest of routine snapshots. Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; June 26, 8 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/161. (Paul Birchall/L.A. Weekly)

CHRISTMAS IN BAKERSFIELD Les Kurkendaal's solo performance tells of his visit to his boyfriend's family in "California's armpit," at their Bakersfield manse. They knew their son was gay but he'd neglected to tell them that his lover was black. And in a slightly mannered style that stresses clarity over mystery, Kurkendaal proffers a compendium of bigotry and homophobia, through which Kurkendaal is still able to win them over — even terrifying "Grandma," whose very name sparks alarming noises over the sound system. It's a sweet tale that aims to cut to the humanity of bigots and homophobes. Forgive them, Lord. They know not what they do. ComedySportz L.A. Studio Theater, 733 Seward Ave., Hollywood. hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/57 (Steven Leigh Morris/L.A. Weekly)

THE DEADLY SIN BINGO SHOW Performing a show dependent on audience participation for an audience of fewer than 10 can be disheartening. But that’s nothing compared to performing that show on the night of the Lakers’ NBA Finals Championship win while L.A. morphs into a rowdy block party. To its credit, the cast — the holy trinity of Catholic humor — a priest and two nuns (Jon Marco, Jenni Lamb and Lisa Merkin) keep a snappy pace despite the honking horns and rebel yells rising from Hollywood Boulevard. Even with Marco’s funny riffs on calling letters — “B” becomes “bordello,” “O” becomes “overeat” — this is still just a bingo game, and without a few drinks and your most fun friends, it feels like a promised date with your grandmother. Various locations; visit hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/18, (312) 420-1352. (Rebecca Haithcoat/L.A. Weekly)

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